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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 6:08 pm, 11th February 2020

From the midst of the choppy waters, I have some life rafts. When the “Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper” report was published by the Scottish Government, my hon. Friend Christine Jardine stated that, as a result of the work of the Scottish Affairs Committee, it was clear that the immigration needs of Scotland would be best met on a sectoral, rather than geographical, basis. The Scottish Affairs Committee was told that the UK can vary visas for different areas and sectors under existing laws. I therefore urge the Government to use these powers in consultation with the Scottish Government.

Agriculture is a key sector in my constituency of North East Fife that relies on a migrant workforce throughout the year, particularly at peak harvest times. The National Farmers Union estimates that 80,000 people are required to harvest crops across the UK each year, and a good proportion of this workforce is mobile, moving from location to location throughout the season. Borders within the UK can create barriers to work for such individuals. Our departure from the EU is already impacting on farmers’ ability to recruit staff, so we should be doing all we can to mitigate these difficulties rather than potentially exacerbating them. The need for visas for non-EEA nationals to crew fishing boats is acute in Cornwall, as it is in East Neuk and elsewhere in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s migration report states:

“The current UK immigration system is complex and consists of a number of different routes and visas for work and study in an unclear system of tiers alongside a restrictive approach to family migration.”

I agree. That is why we proposed an amendment to the motion that focuses on the failings of the current system and the creation of the hostile environment that impacts on people across the UK, and the need to develop a system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Yesterday, I was approached by one of my constituents who had previously sought the support of my predecessor, Stephen Gethins. I thank Stephen for the support he gave to the family concerned. Valentyna Yakoleva is Ukrainian national who lives in my constituency with her son-in-law Andriya, her daughter, and their two children. She moved to the UK in 2010 at the age of 60 and has lived with her family in my constituency since then. After her travel visa expired, she should have been eligible for a family reunification visa, for she had no surviving spouse. She applied for the visa through a law firm based in Dundee, with the family making the assumption that it would be granted. She has spent this last decade raising her two granddaughters. Andriya, her son-in-law, told me that he would not have been able to work if his mother-in-law had not been looking after their daughters. Andriya sadly lost his job in 2015 but is now close to qualifying as a student teacher, thanks to Valentyna’s help.

But following errors in her initial application, and a failed appeal, Valentyna faces deportation back to Ukraine. She was held in the detention centre at Dungavel in South Lanarkshire following her arrest by the police in Fife, and was then held, away from her family, for two weeks before being released on bail following a judicial review. She has been given two options: to leave the UK now, voluntarily, with the prospect of returning for visits only after a period of a year; or to be forcibly evicted from the UK and unable to return for five years.

I find this utterly appalling. Valentyna is nearly 70—the same age as my own mother, who likewise supported me with care for my children in their early years, and indeed still does. Valentyna has lived in this country for a decade. She has helped to raise her grandchildren, allowing her son-in-law to contribute to society and the economy, and to pay taxes. She now faces being sent to a country where she has no family, no property, and no prospect of employment. In addition, she has a number of health issues that she needs support with. Her son-in-law has said that Ukraine

“is no place to be sending her back to. She has no family there and her pension was frozen around seven years ago with no prospect of her ever having access to it. Valentyna is our family, she has brought up our children and has been part of this community for almost a decade. Sending her back will be an absolute breach of her human rights and devastating for all of us.”

I agree. This is a total breach of Valentyna’s human rights, causing untold anxiety and distress.

Cases like these are a black mark against our society. I ask the Minister to intervene in this case. Clearly, it is totally unacceptable to deport Valentyna, sending her somewhere where she has no family, has not lived for a decade, has no prospect of finding a job, and has her health put at risk. We should aim to be judged on how we treat the most vulnerable people in our society. We are failing Valentyna and many others like her.

As a newly elected MP, it is incredibly worrying to see the clockwork regularity of constituents contacting my office because they or their family face deportation because their visas have not been processed or their settled status has not been granted. Other Members have referred to that today. You do not have to be a Member of Parliament for long for it to be clear, if it was not already, that our immigration system is not working. It is not fair—